Billionaire tycoon, 26, charged with illegal fund-raising, fraud

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 July, 2007, 12:00am

Zhejiang beautician-turned-billionaire Wu Ying , 26, was charged yesterday with illegal fund-raising and contract fraud involving 100 million yuan.

Wu - president of the Bense Holding Group, which owned businesses ranging from hotels to advertising firms and laundries - was detained in Dongyang in February on suspicion of illegally soliciting funds from the public.

She first raised eyebrows when she registered 15 firms and company branches between August and October last year with a total investment of almost 300 million yuan.

Wu had insisted her start-up money was clean, and came from lucrative small businesses she ran in Guangzhou and Zhejiang in her early days as an entrepreneur, as well as speculation on property, futures and stocks. But rumours have circulated that she acquired the funds through money laundering for a Southeast Asian warlord and illegal borrowing.

She has rejected the claims and complained to the media that it was difficult for her to obtain loans from banks because they were suspicious of her wealth.

Wu is expected to stand trial in September charged with illegally soliciting up to 900 million yuan from members of the public and failing to pay 100 million yuan relating to a jewellery contract.

Her rapid fall from grace is the latest in a series of crackdowns on activities broadly described as 'illegal collection of funds'.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee and the State Council reaffirmed this week their determination to proceed with the crackdowns and issued an extensive list of all targeted activities, which ranged from various forms of group investments to pyramid sales schemes and exploitation of membership fees.

Wang Xiujie , a blogger based in Changchun who gave investment tips and was arrested this week, is alleged to have illegally collected up to 13 million yuan in membership fees.